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Lavender Massed in Xeriscapes

By Marty Fisher, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

All lavender needs to survive is sun and good drainage, making it useful massed in xeriscapes. It is tolerant of cold, winds, rain, and snow. It will even stand wet feet or poor drainage for a short time after a heavy rain.  

Plants to combine with Lavender:

big bluestem, sideoats grama, indian ricegrass (23808 bytes)


Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides)
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua cartipendula)

blue flax, blackeyed susan, blanket flower (30918 bytes)


Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Blanket flower (Gaillardia spp)
Blue flax (Linum perenne)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata)
Hardy Four-O-Clock (Mirabilis multiflora)
Hyssop (Agastache)
Poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus)

Yarrow (Achillea)

alpine currant, apache plume, gooseberry (29698 bytes)


Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa)
Currants, gooseberry (Ribes spp.)
Kinnikinick/bearberry (Arctostaphylos)
Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.)

Oregon grape (Mahonia repens)

Roses (Rosa sp)
Sage (Artemisia spp.)


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English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is the most popular species of lavender in North America. It is the hardiest of the lavenders, grown easily in Denver’s Zone 5. However, with a blanket of snow in the winter to protect it from freezing and thawing, it is known to survive down to Zone 3.

Two cultivars of L. angustifolia adapt well in Colorado, 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead.' Both are readily available from local garden centers. The flowers range from white to purple, with all shades of pink, mauve, and lavender blue in between. With this pallet, lavender is sure to compliment any garden color scheme.

Although lavender would prefer gritty, sandy soil, it survives in Colorado’s heavy, compacted soil if grown on mounds. Compost may be added to the soil but never use strong manure. It grows quite well without fertilization. In fact, lavender grown in poor soil produces the most fragrance.

Mature plants thrive in dry conditions.  Young plants, however, require regular watering to become established. Overhead sprinklers are their worst enemy, drowning young plants and causing mature bushes to split or die. Avoid watering too near the crown (top) of the root system or root rot may appear. Adequate airflow helps keep the plants healthy.

Pruning lavender once a year will keep the plants in shape. The bush can be cut back to one third of its size. The best time to prune is in the later summer after flowering. Bushes that are not pruned have a tendency to become woody in the center of the bush. This shearing helps keep a tight, denser version of its natural shape. It is also thought that pruning will extend the lifetime of lavender.

Plant lavender en mass to form a canopy effect or put it among other xeric plants that share their leaf color of dusty blue or gray-green.

Use lavender as an edging around annual, herb, or perennial beds. It is a striking complement to other xeric plants such as chocolate flowers (Berlandiera lyrata), hardy four o’clocks (Mirabilis multiflora) and poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata).

It is interesting intermixed with taller xeric plants such as Globe thistle (Echinops ritro), blanket flowers (Gaillardia aristata), Rocky Mountain penstemons (Penstemon strictus), or prairie flowers (Ratibida columnifera).

It brings color to gray-green grasses such as blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis), sideoats grama (Bouteloua cartipendula), or Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides).

Photo Credits:

Mass Xeriscape Planting: Judy Feather

Others: Judy Sedbrook









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Date last revised: 01/05/2010